California Court Upholds Ban on State Ivory and Rhino Horn Trade


LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Superior Court has upheld California’s ban on trade in ivory and rhino horn, rejecting claims that the ban was unconstitutional. The Ivory Education Institute – a group promoting ivory use – challenged the law in 2015.


The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Wildlife Conservation Society intervened in the lawsuit on behalf of the State of California to help defend the law, which the groups helped pass in 2015.


Following is a statement from Elly Pepper, deputy director of wildlife trade for the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“If we want to stop elephants from being slaughtered for their tusks, we must cut off the markets that cause the demand. California’s ivory ban ensures that illegal elephant ivory is not sold under the guise of legal ivory. Paired with the ivory ban laws in New York, Hawaii, and other states, and with the funding California recently dedicated towards enforcing this law – we’re confident it’s going to make a big difference in U.S. demand for elephant ivory and, ultimately, poaching of elephants in Africa.”


Following is a statement from Sarah Uhlemann, international program director for the Center for Biological Diversity:

At current poaching levels, elephants could disappear from Africa in roughly 20 years. This decision paves the way for other states to follow California’s lead to aggressively restrict ivory trade, giving elephants a fighting chance for a future.”


Following is a statement from Rebecca Cary, staff attorney for The Humane Society of the United States:

“We are thrilled that the court unequivocally upheld the constitutionality of AB 96 and California’s right to legislate for the elimination of the illegal ivory trade and the preservation of wildlife Californians care very deeply about.”


Following is a statement from Peter LaFontaine, campaigns manager for the International Fund for Animal Welfare:

“We all have a stake in elephants’ future on this planet, and states can and should be involved in the fight against poaching and trafficking. Ivory is worth far less than a living, breathing animal; and by upholding AB 96, California is helping to change the mindset that biodiversity is a secondary consideration.”


Following is a statement from John Calvelli, executive vice president for public affairs and director of the 96 Elephants campaign for the Wildlife Conservation Society:

“Today, elephants throughout Africa are trumpeting the decision by the Los Angeles Superior Court to uphold AB 96, which effectively bans the sale of ivory in the state of California. We know that the only way to effectively end the ivory trade that is fueling the systematic destruction of elephants throughout Africa is to stop the killing, stop the trafficking and stop the demand.  This means closing all domestic ivory markets whether it is in Nairobi, Beijing, New York City, Los Angeles or San Francisco. This court victory is pivotal and we must continue with the fight to ensure momentum is on the side of the elephants and all wildlife. WCS and our partners ask all to join a movement for wildlife.”



Demand for elephant ivory has skyrocketed in recent years, leading to the poaching of approximately 35,000 elephants per year for their tusks. African savanna elephants have declined by 30 percent in the past seven years and, if current poaching rates continue, African forest elephants could be extinct in less than a decade.


The United States contributes to elephant poaching as a significant consumer of ivory. California is home to the second largest ivory market in the nation, behind New York. Up to 90 percent of the ivory for sale in Los Angeles and approximately 80 percent of the ivory for sale in San Francisco likely came from relatively recently-killed elephants, according to a 2015 NRDC-commissioned undercover investigation of California’s ivory markets.


To stop elephant poaching, we must reduce demand by banning the trade in ivory products, thus reducing poachers’ incentive to kill elephants in Africa. Fortunately, California’s new law (California Fish and Game Code Section 2022; formerly Assembly Bill 96), which became effective July 2016, will help eliminate California’s illegal ivory trade by banning the sale, offer for sale, possession with intent to sell, and importation with intent to sell of elephant ivory and rhino horn, and increasing penalties to up to $50,000 or twice the value of the goods (whichever is greater) and/or one year in prison. The law includes limited exemptions for activities, including transfers of ivory to legal heirs and beneficiaries, antiques containing less than 5 percent ivory or rhino horn, and musical instruments that were manufactured in 1975 or earlier and which contain less than 20 percent ivory or rhino horn.


In addition to California, state ivory bans have been enacted in New York, Hawaii, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.




About the Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


About The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization, rated most effective by our peers. For 60 years, we have celebrated the protection of all animals and confronted all forms of cruelty. We are the nation’s largest provider of hands-on services for animals, caring for more than 100,000 animals each year, and we prevent cruelty to millions more through our advocacy campaigns. Read more about our 60 years of transformational change for animals and people, and visit us online at


About the International Fund for Animal Welfare

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  


About the Natural Resources Defense Council

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.


About the Wildlife Conservation Society

WCS is leading global efforts to save Africa’s elephants and end the current poaching and ivory trafficking crisis. In 2013, WCS launched its 96 Elephants campaign aimed at stopping the killing, stopping the trafficking, and stopping the demand. The WCS campaign focuses on: securing effective moratoria on sales of ivory; bolstering elephant protection; and educating the public about the link between ivory consumption and the elephant poaching crisis (



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